Industry calls for more energy-from-waste support as Brexit pressure adds to management ‘gap’

The UK should re-examine its energy from waste strategy in the light of Brexit and the opportunities that advanced conversion technologies (ACT) offer, the industry says. 

A report from waste management company Suez noted that the percentage of waste being recycled was growing (from single digit in the 1990s to an expected target of 65% in 2030). But meanwhile landfill capacity has declined faster than expected, with the number of sites falling from around 500 in the early 2000s to 120-130 in 2016. Suez also expects that existing large-scale exports to feed waste-to-energy plants in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will decline, because economic recovery in those countries has increased local waste arisings. Meanwhile, Suez says the falling value of Sterling, and potential tariffs and administrative costs after Brexit are making exports less economic. That adds up to a ‘gap’ in waste management options, the company says. 

The Renewable Energy Association argues new energy technologies can fill part of that gap. The industry says ACT can deliver waste-based renewable transport fuels, heat and green chemicals as well as power. But the REA said it was disappointed that despite a large number of energy from waste projects ready to deploy, only six were awarded contracts in the government’s auction of Contracts for Difference. It claimed that ‘The CfD is meant to be the primary policy mechanism for delivering new energy from waste sites, but its structure does not fully recognise the additional benefits derived from ACT beyond power production.”

Mark Sommerfeld, policy analyst at the Renewable Energy Association, said, “Falling levels of landfill capacity are good to see, but when combined with anticipated rising waste export costs and low levels of local authority waste infrastructure, it is clear that the UK needs fresh investment into advanced waste management systems.

“Yesterday’s results for the renewable energy CfD auction demonstrated that Advanced Conversion Technology energy from waste projects are able to deliver renewable base load capacity at a highly competitive price.

“The government must now seriously re-think the UK’s waste management strategy and align the successful existing renewable power auctions more closely to it. Government policy needs to focus on how to incentivise delivery of the full range of waste based products that ACT technology offers. “